How do proceed after directing the popular cult horror musical called, “Repo-The Genetic Opera”? This would be a question that would cause many to freeze or curl up like a newborn baby bothered by light. Director, Darren Lynn Bousman has raised the stakes and has outdone himself with the mult-media production known as “The Devil’s Carnival”.
What is The Devil’s Carnival? Director Bousman with collaborator, Terrance Zdunich has created and unleashed a traveling production that is highlighted by a showing of his short film. Bousman does not stop there, but uses the film as a springboard for his troupe of actors and singers to boldly entertain sold out performances with elements of burlesque, comedy and horror. The production is cleverly emceed by the talented and striking actress, Stephanie Hyden whose star continues to rise with her outstanding live performances at each of the tour stops for the show.
Director, Darren Lynn Bousman gained a rabid following after the release of the unusual and entertaining film, Repo-The Genetic Opera. The film was a fascinating amalgamation of the traditional Hollywood musical combined with elements of Horror and Science Fiction. Although not considered a hit, Repo-The Genetic Opera inherited the crown that was held by “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as a crowd pleasing interactive midnight cult extravaganza.
During the event for The Devil’s Carnival, director Bousman conducts a question and answer session with the audience that is very reminiscent of a press conference. It is also a clever way to bond and commend his fans. The reactions that audience members displayed demonstrated that Bousman has his finger on the pulse of moviegoers looking for a memorable experience that truly lives up to true meaning of that word. The director and his collaborator, actor/writer Terrance Zdunich detailed the evolution of the idea for the short film. It was a refreshingly candid discussion that revealed their frustration with the fact that they do not have the rights to Repo-The Genetic Opera and that The Devil’s Carnival was essentially their response to that situation. The fact that Bousman and Zdunich were in complete control of their self-financed production is-in itself-inspiring and it is gleefully displayed throughout the film.
The Devil’s Carnival was inspired by Aesop’s Fables and the film tells the tale of three hapless sinners who find their way to the classic representation of a traveling carnival. In the course of the musical drama, the three individuals painfully discover that they may indeed be in Hell and the Devil himself may be the individual giving them lessons. The film stars Paul Sorvino(God), Terrance Zdunich(Lucifer) and Sean Patrick Flannery(John) who are quite remarkable in their respective roles in the film. Unlike the majority of musicals that have been made, the musical sequences in the film are inherently logical and add a degree to the notion of being in a state of limbo that one could well imagine might be one of the facets of being trapped in Hell! The songs themselves are quite memorable and instantly infectious. Notable among many notable songs is “666” and the incredible inventive, “In All My Dreams I Drown”. In the question and answer session, director Bousman also stated that ideally would like to keep directing musicals. His strong grasp of the musical genre could have one envisioning the director tackling a mainstream Hollywood production quite effortlessly.
Beyond the sheer delight of watching this wonderfully perverse film, audience members are treated to live acts by Bousman’s troupe of actors, jugglers and singers. A very popular member of the live show was Goth icon, Emilie Autumn whose charisma and talent added immensely to the event. The live show is wonderfully interactive because the performers pattern their acts according to the reaction of the audience. It is also a show performed for a more mature crowd as many elements of the performance include displays of nudity in the tradition of French Burlesque. It is this reviewer’s assertion that Bousman has created a modern day variation of the classic live stage genre known as “Grand Guignol”. The Grand Guignol was a live theater that originated in Paris, France in the last decade of the 19th century. It was a style of theater that specialized in showing scenes of gore, bloodletting and violence in small venues-thus creating a more intimate experience for fans of sanguinary experiences. The live performances and the film itself are not excessively gory, but the spirit of the Grand Guignol is apparently evident throughout.
Could this style of film exhibition point the way to the future of the cinema experience? It is possible, but the logistics and amount of people involved might prevent this type of experience from becoming more mainstream. One thing for certain is that this ambitious production is an amazing sight to behold and yes-experience. The ultimate aim of the director is that an audience paying to view his end product feels like they have been an active part of the film. Director, Darren Lynn Bousman has delivered a masterpiece that speaks to all who have or are attempting to make a stand as an independent artist. That is surely worth the price of admission!